13 December 2007

Eaten Alive

a.k.a. Death Trap, Horror Hotel and others
United States - 1977
Director - Tobe Hooper
Darksky Films 2007, 2 DVD Special Edition
Not to be confused with Umberto Lenzi's 1980 cannibal film Mangiati Vivi, released as Eaten Alive in the US.

Turning her first trick, a runaway young woman working in a whorehouse gets, as her first trick, Buck (Robert Englund), a nasty drunken redneck who menaces her so horribly that she flees the brothel in terror. Arriving at the Starlight Motel she meets Judd, the bizarre charicature of a crazy homicidal grumpy old man who runs the joint and tries to rape her, but opts instead for stabbing her repeatedly with a pitchfork and then feeding her to his giant crocodile which lives in the lagoon behind the hotel.

Welcome to Eaten Alive; this is not going to get any easier. Judd is singing to himself in his room, looking over some old magazine clippings when a cartoony couple and their child show up looking for a room. Distracted by a dead monkey in a cage on Judds' porch, mom (Marylin Burns back from TCM) and daughter only too late notice the family dog "Snoopy" barking at the croc and, whoops, eaten.

Comforting their distraught daughter in their room, sweaty dad flips off the fucking handle, starts barking and picking at the carpet, and finally goes to kill the croc with a shotgun. Running into Judd on the way, he gets stabbed in the belly and then devoured by the voracious proactive crocodile.
Having not heard the gunshots or screaming from downstairs, mom (Burns) takes a shower, and after savoring his victory for awhile, Judd ascends the stairs to tie her to the bed.

Mel Ferrer shows up with his daughter, looking for his other daughter -the dead hooker form the first scene - and after yakking at the cops for a minute goes to the hotel where Judd gives him the usual treatment. The fucked-up shit and stalking creepy old man shit just continue.

It's hard to say Tobe Hooper hasn't done a damn thing good since Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and don't try and claim Poltergeist, that's got Spielberg all over its face. But on a second viewing some 6 or so years since the last (for some stupid reason I wasn't too impressed the first time) Eaten Alive razed my opinion to the ground. This film is all about atmosphere - gooey, clinging, heavy atmosphere, appropriately overplayed. It never seems to be anything but midnight, the green and red light seems to make everything warm and wet, almost decomposing before your eyes. And Hooper's music again gives a rusting abrasive tension to the twisted grisly happenings. Yes, there are a few moments of TCM stirred in there, but this is the logical next step, and is a more refined vision, albeit a distorted one. Demented and cloying, Eaten Alive soaks in through your pores.

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